"I'm The Wrong Color To Get Approved For Social Security Disability"

Oct 02, 2011 Comments Off on "I'm The Wrong Color To Get Approved For Social Security Disability" by

I hear the statement, “I’m the wrong color to get approved for Social Security disability”, from my clients from time to time. I tell them, politely, “You don’t know how wrong you are.” It’s not that race plays no role in who gets approved for Social Security disability. I wish it didn’t, but there is clear evidence that race does play a role. The thing is that the people who tell me that they think they’re not getting approved because of their skin color are white. I’m white so they feel they can confide in me. They are completely wrong. The evidence is that African-Americans face a harder time getting approved for Social Security disability. Social Security did a study and it does seem to show a problem. My African-American clients probably feel they’re being discriminated against but they’re too polite to mention it to me since I’m white. Actually, I wouldn’t be offended if they expressed this. I would be a bit embarrassed to have to tell them that their may be some substance to their suspicion but I wouldn’t be offended.

I don’t really understand why there is real evidence that African-Americans have a harder time being approved for Social Security disability. The vast majority of the time that a Social Security employee deals with a disability claim, they are dealing only with a paper record which does not emphasize the claimant’s race. However, medical records usually mention a patient’s race for completely valid reasons. Doctors can’t be color-blind since there are racial differences that affect medical care in significant ways. For example, diuretics (water pills) often do a good job of controlling blood pressure in persons of African descent but don’t seem to work as well with people of European descent. Since diuretics are inexpensive, they’re usually a sensible starting point in blood pressure control for African-Americans while doctors usually start with more expensive medications for European-Americans. Why would the casual mention of a claimant’s race in medical records make a difference in the outcome of a Social Security disability claim? I don’t know but it seems to. I wish that the differences could be attributed to factors such as differences in access to health care, for instance, but the differences seem to go beyond that. The differences aren’t huge. The reason why you are approved or denied probably isn’t your race but sometimes race seems to creep in.

I find this embarrassing as an American but there it is.

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About the author

Charles Hall is the lead attorney for the Charles Hall Law Firm in Raleigh, NC. He has been practicing in the Social Security Disability law field since 1979, is published, and is ready to help new clients win their benefits in North Carolina.